QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM BERLIN
Few Europeans know that the Independence of Brazil took place as late as in 1822, nearly half a century after the US and also posterior to most countries in the continent. And mostpeopl remain oblivious to the fact that the largest country of Latin America was the last one to abolish slavery in the New World. Joaquim goes back in time to the late 18th century and opens up the wounds of colonisation, exposing a deeply corrupt Brasil where racism and subservience to the Portuguese Crown prevail.
Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, nicknamed Tiradentes, was a leading member of a failed revolutionary movement fighting for Brazilian Independence. Joaquim was arrested tried, decapicated and quartered. The pieces of his body where publicly exhibited in order silence any sort of dissent. His execution on April 21st later became a public holiday in Brazil, and Tiradentes is now celebrated as a national hero and a martyr, the film explains in the opening by the means of a voiceover.
The revolutionary figure is played by the Júlio Machado: he has long-hair, olive skin and a rough, manly complexion. He looks like some sort of cowboy Jesus Christ from the Brazilian Backlands. He is a lieutenant hunting illegal gold-diggers on behalf of Queen Maria of Portugal. He is enamoured with the slave Blackie (the exceptionally beautiful Portuguese-Angolan Isabél Zuaa, pictured above), but he does not have enough money to buy her. He gradually begins to despise the system to which he belongs, realising that Brazil would be much better off without the rule of the Portuguese Crown.
Director Marcelo Gomes reveals an exhuberant country teeming with diverse cultures, races and languages. You will listen to Brazilian Portuguese, Creoule Portuguese, as well as African and Indigenous languages – all of which except for the first have but disappeared since. There’s African singing, indigenous yodelling and a Portuguese guitar. It would be safe to say that the filmmaker did a very good job with his homework in anthropology.
With equal success, the director also debunks the colonial myth of moral supremacy. The Portuguese often described the Brazilians as “bandits, corrupts and lazybones”, but Joaquim realises that this a reflection of their own flawed character, and a vain attempt to patronise and to demoralise Brazilians. That’s when he decides to switch allegiances and to fight for the ideals of independence, influenced by the teachings of Rousseau.
Joaquim is not the only film in the Berlinale this year to deal with the subject of a coloniser describing the colonised as inferior. Viceroy’s House (Gurinder Chadha) reveals a profoundly racist Churchill who said that Indians were “primitive”. Both Britain and Portugal shared a delusional sense of racial superiority. But have they now overcome these prejudices?
There’s a very short dialogue that’s central to the movie, when Joaquim expresses his desire for Brazil to be like the US. He hazards a guess that everyone in the former British colony is now free and equal, and that such a nation would never be oppressive towards others. The director is making a tongue-in-cheek commentary about the hypocrisy of Americans Imperialism.
Joaquim is showing in the Official Competition of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, and it’s a viable contender for the much coveted Golden Bear. DMovies is following the event live – just click here for more information.
Don’t forget to watch the teaser trailer below: